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National Trust Energy Projects Point the Way Forward for Microgeneration

At a time when major debates are underway about how the UK should meet its future energy needs, the National Trust has called for policy makers to move microgeneration from its current niche into the energy mainstream.

While supporting the Government’s strategy to increase dramatically the proportion of energy that is supplied from renewable sources, the National Trust believes that the potential for developing renewable energy at a more local and small scale - microgeneration – remains largely untapped, and needs to be given much greater priority by the Government, local authorities and industry.

Tony Burton, the Trust’s Director of Policy and Strategy, commented, “We need a greater sense of urgency, priority and commitment to achieve widespread take up of microgeneration technologies. Microgeneration can play a significant part in enabling households, communities and businesses to become more self sufficient in their energy use. Decentralisation of electricity and heat production in this way would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy waste, pollution, and the impact of power generation on the countryside and coast.”

Tony Burton’s comments coincide with the publication of Microgeneration: Policy from Practice detailing the Trust’s own experiences of implementing microgeneration projects at several of its historic properties. These include solar energy schemes at Kynance Cove on the Lizard; wood energy schemes at Sheringham Park, Norfolk; hydro electricity schemes at Aberdulais Falls in Wales; and ground source energy at Brancaster in Norfolk.

The groundbreaking Gibson Mill in Yorkshire demonstrates the revolutionary potential of combining microgeneration technology with energy saving measures in historic buildings. The 200 year old, listed former cotton mill has been transformed into a visitor centre, café and community space and is 100% self sufficient in heat and electricity, as well as water and waste treatment.

Tony Burton continued, “The National Trust is committed to reducing its own energy footprint and developing renewable energy schemes at its own properties. As our work at places like Gibson Mill amply demonstrates, energy efficiency and microgeneration can be successfully incorporated into old and new buildings alike. But our experience also highlights that there are a number of barriers that need to be overcome if the UK is to develop microgeneration as a mainstream source of energy supply. Removing these needs to be a policy priority”.

In Microgeneration: Policy from Practice the Trust identifies some of the barriers that it has faced, including the high upfront costs of installation, and weak local networks and infrastructure, particularly for supplying biomass. The Trust proposes a range of regulatory, financial and practical measures for the Government, business and local authorities to kick start the wider uptake of microgeneration. These include setting national and local microgeneration targets, developing a long term framework to help attract stable investment, creating financial incentives for householders, businesses and communities and requiring public buildings and new building projects to incorporate microgeneration technologies.

Tony Burton concluded, “Microgeneration has huge potential and provides the basis for an alternative, more efficient, clean and secure energy system – based on decentralised generation and renewable energy. The UK’s wider energy policies need to recognise the benefits of microgeneration and focus on encouraging its uptake. As an urgent first step, the Government and others need to address the barriers that are currently making it hard to get microgeneration schemes off the ground.”

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